Divorced? Co-Author An Anthology

Whether you’re religious or not, making the decision to divorce is an arduous decision. Not only does one have to consider the effects on the children and their livelihood, but there’s also the stigma of living as a divorcee. If you’ve managed to walk away, we’d love to hear your story.

Sunday, July 23rd at 8 pm est, we’re hosting a conference call to go over the details regarding the divorce anthology. If you’re free, we invite you to join us. Provide your email below if you’re interested or forward to a friend.

 

RIP CHESTER BENNINGTON

Before Jay-Z collaborated with Linkin Park, their music was already bumping in the strip club. And no, it wasn’t a predominantly white club either. Hybrid Theory was on regular rotation at DC’s Penthouse, the premiere strip club for thick, African-American women, The customers were unaccustomed to the hard rock style screaming for which Chester is known, but many of them ultimately bobbed their heads to the beat and admitted that the band was legit. Jay-Z sealed their street cred in 2004 with Collision Course, but Linkin Park had our hearts long before that.

Back in 2000, the dancers and I were headed to the salon when one of the girls asked if I had heard of Linkin Park. They were shocked when I said no then immediately popped in Hybrid Theory so I could listen. From the first chord of the opening song, Papercut, I loved it. Alternative rock was the name of this “new music” since it infused elements of metal, hip hop and electronica with programming and synthesizers. We sat in the car for a few minutes listening to the lyrics and it’s there we decided that our DJ needed to play it in our club. We didn’t care that our customers were unfamiliar with alternative rock or Chester’s unique ability to use his raspy voice to not only deliver quiet melodic moments but to also belt out screams or powerfully long notes that would leave most gasping for air. The music was hypnotic and the lyrics were emotional; we had grown tired of superficial rap songs. We felt every word Chester sang and screamed. We were lonely, unappreciated and tired of being judged for living the life we chose.

Please don’t be offended by the timing of this article and the fact that we played Linkin Park in the strip clubs. It’s been a fact that the music industry considers strip club as the hot spot for new music. Even little Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 performed at various clubs between the girls’ acts.

Every time Linkin Park came to town, Cherry and I got our tickets. We had become more than fans; we were completely committed followers. Linkin Park’s lyrics spoke to the wounds in our soul. Chester vocalized the pain and anger we were trained as children to suppress. But at their concerts, we were free to cry, reflect and scream every feeling their songs evoked. According to Mike Shinoda, their lyrics were taken from “sappy therapy time” and broken down until they reach a happy medium. Unlike R&B and rap songs which only talk about love, sex, and money, their lyrics are derived from the other stuff they’ve gone through but he says, “you don’t want to know where the lyrics come from…you wouldn’t know how the hell we go it to become that song.”

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And somehow, Cherry and I felt that.

Shortly after retiring from dancing, I introduced my boyfriend, who later became my husband, to Linkin Park. There was no way I was going to spend my life with someone who lacked the capacity to love them as much as I. So months later when Linkin Park came to town, he joined me and Cherry and had a good time. This particular concert was my fondest memory: we were in the front row and Chester and I were singing to each other and vibing off the energy. He wasn’t surprised that this black chick knew the lyrics; I just wish he had passed me the mic!

As life got busy with an infant, teenage daughter and the corporate world, my love for Linkin Park never waned. I raised both of my children on their music, explaining the lyrics and seeking their thoughts behind its meaning. Believe it or not, I have no tattoos but seriously considered getting the LP logo permanently seared on my body. My husband thought I was insane so I let it go. I was in my thirties and considering my very first tattoo so I may have been a little out of it.

In 2013, I lost my friend and Linkin Park road dog, Cherry. Having retired from dancing, she was attending a friend’s birthday party at a club when she was murdered by a vengeful male customer. Devastated, it took me months to gather the courage to listen to Linkin Park again. Every song, especially With You, reminded me of our time together. But when I learned that the band would be in town for a concert, a new friend agreed to attend with me. She wasn’t a huge fan of alternative rock or their music, but she admitted to enjoying herself.

With Linkin Park’s upcoming concert for August 1st, it didn’t seem as if nothing would ever be the same again. Cherry was gone. I got divorced. I moved to a new city with virtually no friends; no one I would even want to ask if they’d like to join me. I was resigned to just going alone when the news broke about Chester’s suicide. I’ve been crying all day. And LP has been on repeat.

NOW, nothing will ever be the same.

Just as it’s impossible to replace Kurt Cobain, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson or Prince, Chester’s style and love for humanity will go unmatched. He made Linkin Park. But amid all of his success and love for his six children, he didn’t feel as if he could go on. His best friend Chris Cornell, lead vocalist of Soundgarden, hanged himself May 18, 2017. So Chester saw it fitting to end his life in the same way and on the day of Chris’ birth, July 20th. Everyone has been grieving and paying respects nonstop via social media. Most tweet Linkin Park lyrics and share pictures and memories while some have called attention to depression and suicide.

I understand the grief felt over the loss of a friend. Cherry did not commit suicide but it was just as sudden and heart wrenching. Now, she and I were not as close as Chester and Chris appear to be, but I was curious as to why he chose to kill himself because his friend was gone. When I read Chester’s interview in a Rolling Stone article, it became crystal clear:

Bennington was born March 20th, 1976 in Phoenix, the son of a police officer. He had a rough childhood and was molested and beaten up by an older friend beginning around age seven. “It destroyed my self-confidence,” he told Metal Hammer. “Like most people, I was too afraid to say anything. I didn’t want people to think I was gay or that I was lying. It was a horrible experience.”

When he was 11, his parents divorced and he was forced to live with his father. He eventually discovered drugs, taking opium, amphetamines, marijuana and cocaine alongside alcohol. “I was on 11 hits of acid a day,” he told the magazine in 2016. “I dropped so much acid I’m surprised I can still speak. I’d smoke a bunch of crack, do a bit of meth and just sit there and freak out. Then I’d smoke opium to come down. I weighed 110 pounds. My mom said I looked like I stepped out of Auschwitz. So I used pot to get off drugs. Every time I’d get a craving, I’d smoke my pot.”

After a gang broke into a friend’s house where he was getting high and pistol-whipped his friends, he ditched drugs in 1992 [he was 16!], though addiction would creep back into his life later. He subsequently moved to Los Angeles, where he auditioned for the band that would become Linkin Park [in 1996].

Honestly, I had no idea we’d be discussing child sexual abuse – again!

For years, I’ve been attempting to explain to friends that there is a difference between depression in child abuse victims versus depression in those who were never abused. An article in Current Psychiatry titled, EARLY LIFE STRESS AND DEPRESSION: Childhood Trauma May Lead To Neurobiologically Unique Mood Disorders, analyzes recent data drawn from the National Comorbidity Survey which showed that patients with a history of childhood trauma often struggle with…depression and anxiety. It offered evidence that depression in patients with a history of early life stress (ELS) is biologically and clinically distinct from depression in patients without childhood abuse or neglect. Childhood sexual abuse in particular, was associated with both an increased risk for major depression and sensitivity to the depressogenic effects of stressful life events (such as a friend’s death). Moreover, research in human gene-environment interactions identified a functional polymorphism in the promoter region of the gene for the serotonin transporter which appears to moderate the influence of stressful life events on the development of depression and potential for suicide. Those abused before age 13 are at equivalent risk for developing PTSD or major depressive disorder (MDD), whereas those abused after age 13 are more likely to develop PTSD.

So I get it. The pain was too much to bear and Chester didn’t feel as if he could move on. I’ve been there too. But if there is anyone who feels the same, please know that there is hope. And help. And things will always get better the next day and the day after that and the day after that. If you feel as if you need to speak with someone though, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

And to Chester, “you’ve helped so many of us. We just wish we could’ve helped you.”

Maybe Now Y’all Will Stop Gifting Your Daughters To R. Kelly

If you haven’t read the latest article regarding R. Kelly, you can find it here. It’s been trending on Twitter all day with most not at all shocked over his actions. Neither am I. After spending two weeks covering the Bill Cosby Trial, I peeped his game; Kelly, just like Cosby, discovered how to subvert the law to satisfy his appetite for teenage girls. What he’s doing isn’t exactly criminal; the girls are of age and they claim to be in love and willing participants. They are, however, being emotionally, verbally and, according to the article, physically abused. And the level of control instituted by Kelly should be criminal, but it’s not. And we’ll probably never know the extent of his abuse because each of the girls has signed NDAs. So R. Kelly has won. And it’s thanks to parents like the ones in the article that he’s managed to do so.

J” and Tim

The parents moved from Memphis to Atlanta to help further their daughter’s career. The mom and daughter happened to meet Kelly backstage and got him to listen to her CD. The three sat for two hours discussing her music and potential career. In the article, J admitted to being a fan and that working with him would be a “major leap forward” from record demos and talent show performances. Later, he invited the teenager to fly out to one of his concerts and the mother admitted to not being worried. Although she grew up and grooved to Aaliyah’s Age Ain’t Nothin’ But A Number, “it didn’t really hit home. She considered herself a fiercely protective stage mom and believed that she be able to prevent from being alone with her daughter.

I’m unaware of any parent who can control such a situation. If a child wants something, they will plan, plot and lie to make it happen. And that’s just what she did. Their daughter told them she was visiting a Georgia University for the weekend. Instead, she boarded a plane to see R. Kelly at an Oklahoma concert. Apparently, the mother was unaware they were in communication. When she returned home, she told her parents and friends they had sex. The girl continued to communicate with Kelly and flew out to visit him when requested. He eventually gave her a new cell phone with the instructions to only contact him. She needed his permission to contact anyone else – her parents included. This mom has full control, right?

By now, this girl has skipped so many classes, she’s no longer in good standing at her college. Her parents never hear from her and in their distress, file a missing person’s report with the campus police. Technically, because their daughter is an adult, she can not be considered missing; but the parents follow up with Georgia police. The officers perform a well-being check at Kelly’s Georgia residence but the house was empty. A well-being check by Chicago authorities revealed that their daughter was indeed fine. She told cops that she didn’t want to be bothered by her parents because her father was threatening people; she’d rather stay in contact with her grandmother. Dance with the devil and you’ll get burned.

Theresa and Angelo

Theresa’s daughter met Kelly when she was 17. At a concert with her mom, Kelly and his entourage pulled her and other young looking girls out of the audience and her daughter was given his number. As in the example above, the daughter and Kelly communicated secretly via phone and text. The parents realized their daughter was in communication with Kelly when she failed to arrive home from school. When they learned she was at R. Kelly’s hotel, they called the police and hotel security. Once they arrived at the hotel, their daughter finally came down but Kelly refused to speak with them. It was then that the parents decided that she was to speak with Kelly only when one of them was around. Really?

AFTER this incident, Kelly gave their daughter the opportunity to travel with him to learn about the music business. For whatever reason, they acquiesced and believed their daughter would be safe with a female guardian around. But the girl eventually moved into one of his residences and communication with her parents went from brief to nonexistent. Months later when her older sister got news that she was in a nearby studio with Kelly, she went to visit and hopefully, rescue her. Instead, she was met with Kelly’s staff, one of whom allegedly hit her in the face.

Theresa and Angelo lost their daughter to Kelly because the mom thought Kelly was a lyrical genius. She didn’t live under a rock; she was aware of the child sexual abuse charges but because he was acquitted, she let her guard down. She trusted Kelly with her daughter because she had never been in the music industry.

In hindsight, these seem to be weak excuses to allow R. Kelly access to their daughters. The ultimate reasons being fast tracking their singing careers and the opportunity to work with an r&b icon. As a parent to a daughter, I empathize. You want to see your children succeed and achieve their dream. But the word parent isn’t just a noun; it’s a verb. It means “to be or act as a mother or father to someone” and its synonyms are to raise, to look after, to take care of. If those parents chose to look after their children instead of assuring their singing career, they could have avoided contact with Kelly. All they had to do was Google Kelly’s name to learn that despite his acquittal, he’s paid millions in out of court settlements for sexual misconduct. You don’t have to live in Chicago to hear rumors of him cruising McDonald’s for teenage girls. And you don’t have to be a sexual abuse survivor to heed the warning signs found in his lyrics or quotes in countless articles.

You just have to be a parent who parents.

As they fight to get their girls back, I don’t see how it’s possible. Admittedly, I’m no lawyer but these girls are of age now and according to them, willing participants. The law says willing adults can participate in any type of relationship they choose. And watching the video of J’s daughter, I just don’t see her coming home no time soon. But, if you look closely, you do see the shadow of someone moving as if to say “cut it.” Is it R. Kelly? Probably.

The parents have now chosen to do something and according to this video, are working with local police and the FBI. It may be too little, too late though.

How Bill Killed Netflix and Chill

(This article first appeared in the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.)

As an African-American woman, the Bill Cosby trial was unsettling. A part of me hoped that the charges were simply a misunderstanding or an attempt to extort the incredibly successful comedian, actor, director, author, and philanthropist. That’s the easiest explanation, right? And if those charges could be explained away, it would allow us to retain our love and reverence for him and the work he’s done all over the world. I for one regularly watched “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World” was my favorite sitcom. During my daughter’s senior year of high school, I introduced her to the show and she too became a fan of it and him. My young son, growing up in a predominantly White suburban neighborhood, sat mesmerized with each episode of “Little Bill;” he’d never seen a cartoon about a brown boy on television. And it made me proud to see men of all races tuck their copy of “Fatherhood” under their arm as they exited the subway train.

But testimony from two alleged victims, Andrea Constand and Kelly Johnson, and a myriad of experts painted an eerie picture of “America’s Dad.” Andrea Constand, the former Director of Operations for Women’s Basketball at Temple University, Cosby’s Alma Mater, detailed her friendship and mentorship with Cosby. She said how he helped her network and even offered advice on personal matters such as how to navigate rooming with her recently arrived cousin. Constand’s neighbor confirmed that not only was he familiar with their friendship, but he and Constand  would catch up over dinner in their respective apartments, insinuating that having dinner at Cosby’s home was also innocent. She didn’t deny that Cosby flirted and made a couple of passes, but she dismissed them and continued to feel safe. Even after he attempted to unzip her pants, she admitted to feeling awkward at the moment but brushed the incident aside and without ever discussing it, was confident it would never happen again.

Johnson gave a similar depiction of her incident with Cosby. Having worked for Bill’s late agent, Tom Illius, she endured daily emotional and verbal abuse. Cosby reached out and established a friendship with her too, gaining her trust and ultimately offering a TV role and a contract. He also provided fatherly advice as she was stressed due to her job and a custody battle with her son’s father, Maxi Priest. As Cosby made himself available to discuss these matters, he also offered to help her improve her acting skills. Cosby invited her to his home where they rehearsed a script which called for them to kiss. She told him she was unable to do so and subsequently left. Johnson described their relationship as having “chilled” after her unwillingness to kiss him.

While six years had passed between Johnson’s visit described above and the incident in question, prosecutors noted that upon the very next visit to Cosby’s home, the alleged assault on Constand occurred. According to testimony from both women, they were stressed over personal matters so Cosby offered pills to help them relax. Based upon their conversation and the nature of their relationship, it seemed logical, almost caring on his part. While Johnson was hesitant to take it and tried to hide the pill under her tongue, Constand took hers willingly under the assumption they were herbal. It’s unclear what Johnson was given but Cosby admitted to giving Andrea one and a half pills of over-the-counter Benadryl. Both women testified to feeling incapacitated then waking up to Cosby sexually assaulting them. And in a deposition, Cosby admitted to being romantically interested but not wanting to make his intentions known; he wanted to first establish trust and a friendship before making his move.

And there are countless men who use the same M.O. After establishing a friendship, they start to flirt and make subtle passes. If it’s not reciprocated, they wait patiently in the friend zone for the opportunity to become more. They listen to our complaints, offer advice, perform favors and run errands. They extend Netflix and Chill invites and we accept without giving a second thought to potential dangers. But it may be time to decline such invites. Here’s why:

In a survey taken by Rape Response Services, nearly one in two women has experienced sexual violence victimization (unwanted sexual touching, exploitation, harassment, etc). And according to The Bureau of Justice Statistics, 6 in 10 sexual assault victims said they were assaulted by an intimate partner, relative, friend or acquaintance…for college women, it’s 9 out of 10.

Each state has its own definition of sexual assault, but Women’s Law defines it generally as unwanted sexual contact, sexual contact without consent, and sexual contact against one’s will, not just by physical force. With regard to the definition, force includes psychological coercion such as being “talked into it”, threats to cause harm to the person or a loved one if the person doesn’t submit or other non-physical circumstances in which the victim feels that there is no other option than to submit to the unwanted sexual activity. It includes situations where the victim may be drunk, drugged, asleep, unconscious, or for any reason unable to consent. And unlike a violent rape, proving sexual assault is difficult especially if there’s any hint of a prior relationship.

Unaware of how sexual assault is defined; we accept that invitation to “Netflix and Chill” assuming there’s no subversive meaning. While there, we casually dismiss an unwanted hand or body part which was “accidentally” brushed against our breast or buttocks. We rationalize being talked into having sex or feeling violated waking up to our friend performing a sexual act without our consent. Men who push the envelope and force sex to justify their behavior with the assumption that consensual sex is implied because the invite to a home was accepted. And if an assault should happen, the first question the victim hears from the perpetrator and others is, “why did you go over there?” What’s even worse, we ask that question of ourselves and conclude that it was somehow our fault. We wore the wrong clothing. We drank too much. We kissed him.

Regardless of what we wore, how much we drank or how many pills were given, never is sexual assault our fault. But we can prevent it by hanging out in public settings, refusing to go to their home and not inviting them to ours. If you happen to be in a new relationship, I recommend being upfront by discussing intentions, making clear boundaries and telling a few friends where you’ll be and with whom you’re spending your time. Once you arrive, if he’s a gentleman, he’ll honor everything discussed. But if you’re not given clarity beforehand, don’t go and if you realize he’s lured you there under false pretenses, leave. Oh. Make your own drink and don’t accept any form of medication from him. No friendship or mentorship is worth it.

How To Report A Potential Human Trafficking Situation

A $32 billion industry, human trafficking is on the rise in all 50 states and their recruiting methods have become more sophisticated than ever. One doesn’t just have to look out for the criminal or pimp, we must also be wary of love interests, friends, family and potential employers. Based on human trafficking cases that have been identified by the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, examples of traffickers may include:

  • Brothel and fake massage business owners and managers
  • Employers of domestic servants
  • Gangs and criminal networks
  • Growers and crew leaders in agriculture
  • Intimate partners/family members
  • Labor brokers
  • Factory owners and corporations
  • Pimps
  • Small business owners and managers.

What hasn’t changed is that traffickers still prey upon people with certain characteristics. They target those who need work, have an unstable home life or a history of sexual or physical abuse. We’re aware that runaways are prime targets, but traffickers now target college women, married women, men, etc. who seek better pay, a loving relationship or an exciting opportunity. Traffickers also attempt to recruit those who share the same national, ethnic, or cultural background which allows them to better relate, understand and exploit their potential victim. You may not discover he/she is a trafficker until it’s too late. But here some warning signs that may just save your life:

  1. Their story doesn’t check out. If they claim to have a business or some other activity, don’t just trust what they say, look it up before agreeing to meet them anywhere.
  1. You just met and they want to invite you over or meet someplace secluded. Don’t do it. And if you’re out in public, do not accept food, drink or medicine from anyone.
  1. The employment ad guarantees you’ll be making a lot of money. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. You can verify potential income by researching salaries for specific job titles. If it doesn’t fall within that range or if the recruiter asks for you to text your address or a picture, it is not a legitimate employment opportunity.
  1. Your instinct tells you something is wrong. If so, smile, be polite and leave asap. There is no need to tell them about your suspicion. It could put you in even more danger.

When you’re home or someplace safe, call The National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or fill out the form on this site:  https://humantraffickinghotline.org/report-trafficking. Just having their name, phone number or business address could help authorities investigate and prevent someone else from becoming a victim.

Was Bill Cosby On Trial Due To Race?

In high school, you’re taught to use credible sources when writing a research paper. A primary source involves firsthand knowledge about a person, event or object while a secondary source is information that was created by someone who did not experience or participate first hand in an event. Ironically, a newspaper article can be both a primary and secondary source. If it is a factual account of events, recording the events as they happened, it is a primary source. If the article is interpreted or has opinion interjected, it is considered a secondary source. Distinguishing between the two was relatively easy until the age of the Internet and the advent of media bias, when the media systematically emphasize one particular point of view in a way that contravenes the standards of professional journalism.

I can admit that race was one of my underlying issues as a black woman and mother to a black boy. I possess an African-American Studies degree from Howard University and radiate black pride. I prefer Malcolm over Martin and Booker T. over DuBois. I believe desegregation did us a disservice. I believe our Ferguson activists who were “found dead” is racially motivated. Cops killing our young men and women is racially motivated and the disproportionate number of African-Americans in jail and their length of sentencing is definitely racially motivated. And I understand racism in America not only because I studied it; but because I experienced it.

But, my biases cross both sides of the aisle, I’m also a survivor of sexual assault. Because of this, I decided to witness the Cosby trial firsthand to see if racism played any part in it. My son’s life and the issue of sexual assault are too important to leave in the hands of strangers tainted with their own personal biases.

Purchasing NBC

Cosby sought to purchase NBC in 1992 and in a 1994 interview he was asked if he would try again. He said, quote, “No, it’s over. Couldn’t get it.” General Motors, who owned NBC at the time, said no to him before allegations of sexual assault ever surfaced. In 2015, Cosby was working with the network to air another sitcom when NBC decided to sever all ties. Comedian Hannibal Burris had joked in 2014 that Bill Cosby was a rapist and the floodgates of accusations opened.

Let’s make sure you read that right. NBC severed all ties in 2015. Andrea Constand went to the police with allegations in 2005 about a 2004 incident. So even after she gave her statement, NBC was still willing to work with him.

The Charges

Bill Cosby was charged with three counts of felony aggravated indecent assault. Count 1 alleged that Cosby didn’t have consent when he penetrated Constand’s genitals with his fingers. Count 2 alleged she was unconscious or semi-unconscious at the time and could not give consent. Count 3 alleged all this happened after he gave her an intoxicant that substantially impaired her and stopped her from resisting.

Let’s be real. Some of y’all have done this. You ply a woman with drinks and wait for her fall asleep or pass out before performing some sort of sexual act. While at the trial, I was told stories by men who were sexually assaulted by women and became fathers as a result. Whether is a man or woman, prior relationship or not, the victim can press charges.

The Judge

Judge Steven T. O’Neill is nicknamed ‘the Whistler’ and is considered a ‘regular guy.’ He’s respected and well-liked by employees of the court and residents of Norristown. I happened to speak to a local resident, a black woman, while the jury was deliberating. She sat next to me and told me about her upcoming case. Some family property was sold and she wasn’t given her fair share. She didn’t like the judge who would be presiding and was looking for a way to get Judge O’Neill to preside. She said he was reputed for being kind and fair, not racist at all.

Prosecution

The prosecution called alleged victim Kelly Johnson to the stand to give her testimony about an incident with Bill Cosby. Her alleged assault occurred in 1996 and she was the only alleged victim allowed to testify. If the judge was unfair or a racist, he would have allowed other accusers to testify; more than 60 have spoken up. But O’Neill said that the incidents were too far in the past so he didn’t allow it. I spoke to an attorney who explained that even four women testifying would have sent a message to the jury that Cosby exhibited a pattern of sexual assault.

Many people believe that Kelly Johnson and Andrea Constand were conspiring but the timeline doesn’t support such a claim. Kelly gave her testimony in 1996 to a workmen compensation claim and Andrea gave her report to the police department in 2005. They both live on opposite sides of the US and as the district attorney pointed this out, Cosby was vigorously shaking his head in the affirmative! So Cosby himself agreed that these women never knew each other and were not conspiring.

Testimony

In Cosby’s deposition, he said he believed Andrea and her mom are honest people and that they are not out to extort him or receive “hush money.”

Joseph Miller, a white worker’s compensation lawyer, testified that Kelly Johnson filed a claim against Cosby’s agency, William Morris. In her deposition to him and another white man, she described the abusive treatment she suffered from Cosby’s agent, the late Tom Illius. She was asked to return the next day to finish her statement and when she began to discuss what happened with Bill Cosby, Miller decided not to transcribe her testimony. He even admitted that her testimony about Cosby hastened them to settle her claim.

Kelly reported the assault to the police and the white officer advised her to not press charges and “go up against Bill Cosby.”

When Andrea Constand filed a report with the Montgomery County police, the police chief had a closed door meeting so only a handful of officers were aware of the accusation.

Detective Schaffer of the Montgomery County Police Department was chosen to investigate the case. When on the witness stand, he said he conducted a background check on Andrea but it was “not necessarily for Andrea Constand. It was for Cosby to make sure she was legit.” Later in his testimony, he said, “…to protect Mr. Cosby’s interests.”

After hearing testimony from Constand and Cosby, a judge wouldn’t or couldn’t sign a search warrant but Cosby did consent to a search.

A sexual assault expert took the stand to explain the reasons why victims don’t speak up. She noted not only because of the criticism and harassment faced by the perpetrator’s supporters, but they don’t speak up because of shame, guilt, and fear. If you really care to understand why sexual assault victims don’t speak up, read this or peruse the comments found in the Twitter hashtag #whysurvivorsdontreport.

Defense

The judge wouldn’t hear testimony from Marguerite Jackson, a woman who claimed to have been roommates with Andrea during an away game. I read the statement presented to the press and decided to call her myself. I immediately asked her how she felt about all this and she responded, “I don’t know how I feel. She (Andrea) plotted and planned.” When I asked her the timeline of this statement, she wasn’t sure if it was said before or during Andrea’s friendship with Cosby. Then I asked her if Andrea ever told you about her visits to his home and she was only told of a dinner party Andrea attended with others which led me to believe they aren’t really friends.

Now, let’s break this down. Marguerite said Andrea plotted to set Bill up. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Andrea and Bill both admitted to being introduced by a Temple employee. That employee was with Bill at the time of the introduction. Cosby admitted to upon seeing Andrea, he was romantically attracted to her and wanted to establish trust and a friendship first. Andrea never believed there was a romantic interest; she considered Cosby a friend and mentor. Also, if Marguerite was so infuriated by Andrea, why did SHE wait so long to give her statement? Unlike a sexual abuse survivor, there would have been no guilt, fear or shame on her part.

The judge would not permit Marguerite to testify because Andrea claimed to not know her even though Marguerite claims they had a friendship. The defense asked Andrea specifically if she knew Marguerite Jackson to which she replied no. That’s why Marguerite’s testimony was hearsay and inadmissible. BUT, if the defense had asked, “did you ever tell anyone that you would set up a rich, old man?” and Andrea responded no, then Marguerite’s testimony could have been introduced, proving Andrea to have lied. Since the defense didn’t ask, it was never allowed.

I also wondered why the defense didn’t take the time to prove the women knew each other. They pulled Andrea’s phone records from Temple University. They could have easily pulled Marguerite’s to show the jury there was a relationship. If they had, in fact, shared a room during an away game, they could have found the email or invoice proving they were roommates. But the defense did none of this.

Conclusion

From what I witnessed and learned from area residents, lawyers, etc. Cosby’s trial was fair and it had nothing to do with race although many have been making this unsubstantiated claim for years.Race did play a role but not in the way that you think:

Now, I will say race played a role but not in the way that you think:

While some African-Americans continue to defend their hero, what they fail to realize is that Cosby has been fully assimilated into the mainstream (white) America for generations. And yes, he supported HBCUs and black causes during those years. But he also blatantly disrespected every black single mother, mothers with multiple fathers and black boy shot for allegedly stealing from a convenience store in his NAACP Pound Cake Speech in 2004. He wants y’all to forget that speech as he runs back into the arms of the community he insulted.

But did you know it was because of his indignity toward those above and disdain for “names like Shaniqua, Shaligua, Mohammed” and “people with their hat on backward, pants down around the crack” that the Associated Press filed a motion to obtain documents related to a 2005 civil lawsuit against Cosby? The judge agreed to release the documents citing that Cosby’s Pound Cake Speech deemed him a public moralist and the public has a right to be made aware of his hypocrisy.

So who’s the racist now?

Zumba Through Depression

Please forgive me for saying this, but as a former half marathoner, I always thought Zumba was for sissies.

It’s a workout, yes, but it surely doesn’t compare to the weekly miles, hill repeats and long runs necessary to prepare for a half marathon. Many of my Zumba friends testified to its effectiveness, but it wasn’t just effectiveness I was after.

I was after that runner’s high. Every runner knows the feeling. It’s when you’re one with the wind and despite how long you’ve been on a run, you feel no pain… only pure joy.

However, when my life came crashing down, I was unable to chase that high. Suffering from knee pain shortly after my last half marathon of 2013, I had learned a good friend of mine was murdered. On top of that, I had decided to separate from my husband. It was never my intention to divorce, it was my hope that he’d seek counseling while I worked through my grief. Unfortunately or fortunately, that did not happen. We divorced the following year.

Devastated, heartbroken and still grieving my friend’s death, I slipped into a deep depression. I cried for months, barely ate and withdrew from everyone and everything that brought me happiness. Because my behavior had begun to affect my job performance, I eventually sought a counselor who prescribed anti-depressants. And after a few months of “happy pills,” I started to feel like my old self.

But anyone who’s ever taken anti-depressants knows that the nausea, headaches and constant fatigue can be just as crippling as the depression itself. I fought through the side effects because it meant keeping my job and reconnecting with friends and family. Plus, it also motivated me to run again. So, for a few months, I was able to run comfortably until not just one knee, but both knees, started to bother me. Eventually, I was unable to run at all.

That’s when the weight started to pile on.

Weight gain was another side effect of the antidepressants, and in addition to my sedentary lifestyle, it was only inevitable. After reaching my heaviest weight ever, it finally motivated me to do something. I weaned myself off of the meds and recalling my love for spin, joined a gym. But the classes no longer excited me. Actually, nothing excited me. But I refused to slip back into that fog of depression and fought through it. Staring at the gym class schedule posted on a door one day, a woman walked past me and said, “You might as well stop staring at it and come on in.”

And it changed my life.

The first thing I noticed when walking in was the Zumba instructor’s joy. It was contagious. Also, she was dressed in a cute, hot pink outfit and was wearing full makeup. Who does that? Anyway, when the music started, I caught on to the moves quickly and found myself smiling. I used to love to dance. Staring in the mirror, my pot belly, love handles and saddlebags started to make me feel self-conscious. Eventually, though, I stopped staring at how I looked and danced away. Twenty minutes in, it took all of my strength not to fall to my knees and cry.

I felt euphoric. And it was better than any runner’s high. It took all of my strength not to run up to the instructor and give her a bear hug. Because of her energy and the music, my sexiness started to return with each beat… with every eight count. You can’t really fight it when you’re winding to songs such as ‘Shake Your Body’ or ‘I’m Too Sexy.’ This was the first step to getting me back. Oh, how I missed her.

Am I still suffering from depression? Yes, I am. I’m still in counseling and my doctor found another prescription drug with less side effects. I still have issues to work through and get over but this time, I won’t wallow my way through it. Instead, I’m going to Zumba through it.

(first appeared in Huffington Post 9/1/2016)

Play Review: Ask A Sex Abuse Survivor

Let me start this off by first saying: I love Philly. I moved here last fall and am in awe of the creative vibe. There are truly some talented artists, musicians, writers and poets in this city. I attended a few poetry slams and an event at the Philadelphia Museum where I tried my hand at origami and painted a very elementary picture of a house.

But this past weekend, I checked my Facebook events and noticed Michael Broussard’s play, Ask A Sex Abuse Survivor, was playing in three hours. It was time to make a decision: do I lounge in the bed all day watching my third Game of Thrones marathon or do I venture outside? This past week, my depression had hit pretty heavily so I turned to the perfect distraction – GOT.

This time, though, I decided to get out of bed and go somewhere.

When the GPS indicated that the Adrienne Theater is on Sansom Street, I almost walked back in the house. I hate driving in downtown Philly. But I fought the urge and made my way to the theater. And as luck would have it, I found a parking space just yards from the theater!

As soon as I walked in, I knew I was late. But to make matters worse, I opened the stage door! I shut it quickly as the audience laughed and Michael directed me to the correct door.

Fortunately, I hadn’t missed much. His play is set up where he interacts with the audience, does a scene and breaks again to interact with the audience. I sat down just as he began the opening scene.

Michael described the boy he used to be before the abuse: fun-loving, trusting, innocent. And like most kids, he loved to dance, play outside and crack jokes. He also loved meeting new people and spending time with family, but this was all before the abuse. Like most victims, there’s a distinct disconnect between the person we were before we were raped and the person we become after the incident.

Michael is about ten years older than I and even he hasn’t managed to merge the two. I read once that we’re not supposed to think of the person before the abuse in the third person, but I tell you, it felt right when he referred to the old him in that way.

I don’t want to give the entire play away, but I will tell you that it’s a must-see for survivors. I already knew I wasn’t alone, but upon discovering his coping mechanisms were the same as mine…his pain was the same as mine, it shook me to know that someone else suffered the same as I and is standing before me whole. It can be done.

Women Organized Against Rape (WOAR) counselors were sitting in the audience. If someone rushed out of the theater crying or in a panic, they were there to follow them out and speak with them. Throughout the entire play, I thought it was going to be me. I couldn’t stop crying. I was having flashbacks and being triggered and trying to be strong all in the same moment. I kept staring at the door…I didn’t want to punk out and run. I wanted to hear his story.

And finally…it was over. I made it through. After speaking briefly with Michael, we took a picture and he asked me something that had been on my mind since I relocated to Philadelphia, “have you been back to the place where you were sexually abused?”

I’m crying as I write this…

I haven’t returned although something in me knows that I need to go back. I was first raped at five in Washington, DC. but the bulk of the abuse occurred in Princeton, NJ, less than one hour’s drive from my new town. To be honest, I didn’t even have the courage to cross the NJ state line and planned to never do so. I felt if I did I would be abused all over again. But, during the last two months, circumstances outside of my control led me over the bridge several times and each time I visited, my anxiety attacks lessened.

But to return to Redding Circle, I don’t know…

Before heading home, I stopped at the corner bar for a glass of wine. I needed to erase those thoughts. I didn’t want to drive home with tear-flooded eyes.

Plus, I needed to get back to my Game of Thrones marathon.

 

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Michael Broussard and me.

 


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This Mother’s Day, How Do You Measure Success?

While I was unsure what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always knew I wanted to be a mom. As a matter of fact, I wanted a house full of kids, boys mostly, making it decades before I’d ever have to experience the empty nest syndrome. My life took a different route so I only have two children. But hands down, being a mom has been the best job I’ve ever had. 

As I look back over my life, I strived to be successful in all things: a wife, employee, business owner, author, etc. I held various positions for a myriad of industries and I guess you can say I was successful. I never became CEO or EVP of a FORTUNE 500 with writeups in Forbes magazine or an appearance on Oprah! I never invented a new product or won a Nobel prize. But – if I had managed to do any of those things and my children were delinquents, drug addicted or simply unhappy, unruly or disrespectful, I would not have considered myself successful.  

I’m realizing now that I’ve always measured success by how my children turned out. Of course, I never wanted them to endure any form of abuse and I protected them with everything I had. But I also made sure to raise intelligent, emotionally mature citizens with a healthy compassion for others. I use the term healthy because I didn’t want them to be pushovers or suckers. Or prey. So not only did I work to instill empathy, I also taught them the mind games folk use to try to manipulate them. A lot of parents claim that kids don’t listen to adults, but that wasn’t the case for me. Both of my children heed my advice and make better choices because of it.

I know, there are thousands of wonderful parents whose children become lost. I do not blame them for it; some people are chosen to take a difficult path regardless of their upbringing. I pray they find their way back and become a light for those who’ve lost their way.

So I ask you, moms, how do you measure success for yourself and your children? And what are you doing to ensure that success?


 

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Healthy Boundaries for Mental Health Month

Recently, I made the decision to not return to corporate America. Not only for my mental sanity, but because I want to pour my time and energy into my writing. I’m not at the point where I can live off of book sales yet, I decided to drive for Lyft to supplement my income.

So far, everything has been going well. There were a couple of rude passengers but overall, most have been pleasant. So in anticipation of another friendly passenger, I pull up and confirm my arrival. When they entered the car, however, I knew this was going to be an unfavorable experience.

The woman and her partner entered my vehicle with an attitude. I have no idea why, but I gave them a friendly greeting and took off. They spent the entire time conversing with each other so I remained quiet as they chatted. After a few moments, my phone did an unexpected reset and I interrupted them for a moment to ask which exit to take; Lyft automatically starts the navigation so I barely caught a glimpse of the address. They both became incredibly rude and proceeded to insult me even after explaining that my phone shut off. But I remained polite, dropped them off then pulled over to give Lyft a thorough explanation for my rating.

I rated the passenger 1 star, hit send and Lyft responded immediately with the following:

“if you rate a customer 3 stars or below, we will do our best to not pair you up again.”

And it got me thinking:

How many relationships do we endure with people who, if there was such a rating system, would deserve 3 stars or less?  Why do we put ourselves through it?

According to Psychology Today, humans are ingrained with the belief that that which is familiar is likely to be safer than the unfamiliar. We further reason that if something is familiar, we obviously survived exposure to it so our brain is ok with steering us towards it. Simply put, we are hardwired to feel that the “known devil is better than the unknown angel.”

As survivors, we do the same thing but to our detriment. Our rational selves know he’s not good for us, this family member is toxic or this situation is not safe but something inside of us instinctively gravitates towards that person or situation which reinforces the wounded aspect of ourselves. And we intentionally hurt ourselves. Psychologists call it wounded attachment.

Laymen call it crazy.

As survivors, while we may yearn for better and tell ourselves we’ll do better next time, it’s tough to break such a cycle; I’ve ridden that merry-go-round my entire life. But now I’m ready to hop off. No more will I put myself in dangerous situations or tolerate toxic relationships. Not only do I deserve better, but my children deserve better. Thankfully, my issues haven’t negatively impacted them, but they do know and understand everything I endured. They do better for themselves, but I want them to see their mom do better for herself.

Now, I rate everyone in my life on a 5-star scale and implement boundaries when necessary. Here’s my rating system:

5 STARS – This is my close-knit circle where we feel comfortable sharing dreams, secrets, and insecurities.

4 STARS – The people in this circle are not my confidants but they are trusted. We hang out and interact with each other on social media.

3 STARS – There hasn’t been much interaction so I’m unsure whether they can be trusted. Social media interaction is ok but they’re kept at arm’s length until I get to know them.

2 STARS – They’ve proven to be untrustworthy but because they’re attached in some way (i.e. family), little to no interaction is involved.

1 STAR – There’s absolutely no interaction.

Since utilizing this system, I’ve found consistent inner peace and the people pleasing desire has all but vanished.

As survivors, we endured so much in the past, we deserve as much 5-star treatment as we can get.



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